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A year after big snowstorm, temperatures heat up
Warmer temps this January 'a little bit unusual'
Spring Street and downtown Gainesville on Tuesday, one year after the big snowstorm. - photo by Tom Reed

This time a year ago a snowstorm practically shut down Northeast Georgia commerce and prevented safe road travel for days on end, but this year is a completely different story.

Residents awoke Tuesday to a nearly 60-degree day - a relief from the freezing temperatures from just a week ago.

"For January 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) is a little bit unusual," said State Climatologist Bill Murphey.

Those warmer temperatures, despite being mid-January, are expected due to the presence of the La Niña weather pattern, which often leads to drought conditions in Georgia and the rest of the Southeast, Murphey said.

"It's a weak to moderate La Niña and gradually weakening once we get to March, April and May even more so," he said.

That doesn't mean periods of rain don't come around, though. Northeast Georgia has experienced thunderstorms in the past week and that trend is expected to continue for the next couple of days.

The region has received nearly a half-foot of rainfall since Sunday and another storm system is expected to generate even more.

Although the warmer temperatures in recent days were nearly enough for residents to venture outside without a jacket and even in shorts, Murphey said don't expect that to continue due to a cold front that lingers just behind the storm system.

"We're kind of swinging on that pattern where we warm up and then we get good thunderstorm activity and then we will get cold again," he said. "If you don't like the weather in the next day or two, just wait because it will change."

Those cold temperatures, though, are not expected to bring any snowstorms and will still be higher than average for the dead of winter.

The month of December in Gainesville was also above average for its temperatures. Compared to the norm of 43.6F, the month saw an average nearly 3 degrees higher.

But many days in December 2010 saw temperatures drop into the teens and even brought snow on Christmas Day. That was far from the case this time around.

The current patterns can bring about extensive amounts of rain followed by long periods of dry conditions.

Those swings in temperature and sudden outbursts of thunderstorms are concurrent with the patterns of La Niña and not a result of climate change, Murphey said.

"You expect, especially in the La Niña pattern, this drier-than-normal condition and warmer-than-normal conditions, but climate change is still debatable," he said.

"It depends on what type of pattern we're in because in this kind of pattern it's possible to get extremes," he added.

Because warmer air coming in from the Atlantic meets low pressure systems generated in the Southwest, those conditions can suddenly bring about freezing temperatures, Murphey said.

"Things are not stagnant," he said. "In the La Niña pattern you can get these little blips and changes through this time of the year."

If the region experiences the crippling snowstorms that it did at this time last year, it won't be until late into the winter season, Murphey said.

It's basically a waiting game to see what path the weather patterns take.

"If we don't get our winter-type storm systems in the next few weeks to a month, then we could just roll straight into warmer temperatures and still have drier conditions but go into more of our spring severe weather season," Murphey said.

"It's too early to tell because we still could have ... these quick shots of cold air coming down and then we could warm back up pretty quick too," he added.


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